Every time a Christian makes the news, I almost cringe. I don’t know if you caught this one, it wasn’t a sex scandal this time but two priests have been sentenced to jail time for embezzling over 8 million dollars from the same church. Not to be out done the Protestants have had their own scandals to mar their names as well, enough to garner a Wikipedia page about it.
As I think about how these stories must affect those outside the Christian faith I am heartbroken that these are the things that will grab people’s attention and reside in their memories. When people are asked why they don’t believe, they often point to such abuses as their reason. It should tear our hearts out.
But this entry isn’t about that, it is about an event I went to for a friend of mine who has cancer, Duane Garren. On March 26th at Cowan Civic Center in Lebanon, MO a benefit concert was held for Duane and his family. Duane and his wife Micki have twins Andy and Allie 2 years of age and Macy 1 year in age and as he is fond of saying they have “Einey, Meany, and Miney, there ain’t gonna be no Mo.” The concert featured Celisa Harris, The Lester's, The McCunes, Aaron Wilburn, Ascension Quartet and The New Horizons. Admission was free but a diaper shower was also advertised of size 4 and size five diapers. The response to the event was nothing short of amazing. First of all let me comment of the entertainment.
Aaron Wilburn traveled from Nashville, the Lester’s traveled from St. Louis, and the other performers traveled from their homes in the area for one reason, to honor Duane. No checks were cut to the groups, no merchandize tables we out for people to buy CDs, videos, t-shirts and the like. Their performances were amazing, singing and joking out of a compassion for their friend and love for their God, there was an unusual Spirit about the place that would be difficult to deny.
What was perhaps more surprising to me was the response from the community. I was convinced that there must be another event going on simultaneously because the parking lot to the Civic Center was so full. I was proven wrong as I entered the auditorium thirty minutes prior to the start of the show to find it packed with people already standing without a seat and every handicap area also filled. All across the stage diapers and wet wipes were already stacked higher than the monitors, providing plenty of material for Aaron Wilburn’s comedy routine. I was told it took three van loads to haul them away! All this on a Thursday night in the sleepy little town of Lebanon, MO with the NCAA basketball tournament in full swing even with Mizzou playing in the Sweet 16 for the first time in a long while. Though I admit I did see a few people peeking at their cell phones to get the scores! As the buckets were passed out this crowd of close to 700 people gave in excess of $10,200. WOW. When I heard the number I was stunned.
So what makes people get up and drive 9 hours, say no I will catch MU in the Elite 8 (which as it turns out will happen but it took faith), to go buy diapers and wipes for kids they don’t even know, all on a weeknight where many would have to get up and go to work the next morning? Love. Duane has given all of his life to ministry, traveling, singing, leading, driving buses, setting up sound, answering phone calls, and always being there to listen to people’s stories and prayer requests. People cannot help but love Duane, and this was their night to show it in a real tangible way. Every song, every applause, every diaper, every dime, was given to the Garren family in love. It was amazing.
The whole night reminded me of this verse:
John 13:34 "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."
This is what we are to be known for, not the scandalous rubbish mentioned at the top of this post, but our love. I am not sure how much it was covered by the news media but let it be made known. For those few hours on that night, Gods love was shown in purity without any desire for remuneration. I believe in as much as we gave out of love for Duane, we gave because we are in love with Christ. We were a family coming together to support one of our own in a time of great need. It was beautiful wish you could have been there.
If you would like to offer support to Duane and his family keep him in your prayers and please send your donation to:
DUANE GARREN CANCER FUND
PO Box 256
Lebanon, MO 65536
When we live as we are called it can be said of the church that we are a beautiful body indeed!